Ghana confirmed their place in next year's FIFA World Cup following a 2-1 loss to Egypt on Tuesday evening in Cairo.
The result, coupled with Ghana's 6-1 win in last month's first leg, gave Ghana a 7-3 aggregate victory in their two-legged, CAF third-round qualification tie.
Amr Zaki and Mohamed Gedo scored for Egypt, who briefly held hope for an improbable comeback. Kevin-Prince Boateng scored Ghana's only goal in the 89th minute, finishing off Egypt's challenge.
Ghana, coached by Akwasi Appiah, advanced to their third consecutive World Cup and third overall. Egypt, who have played in two finals, failed to qualify for the sixth straight cycle.
The Pharaohs had entered the final round as the only African side with a 100 percent record in qualifying. That changed in the first leg, which Ghana won convincingly 6-1 in Kumasi.
In the run-up to the first leg, Ghana had asked FIFA to take the second leg out of Cairo, citing safety concerns. FIFA denied the request and, on Tuesday, the home fans created an intense atmosphere clearly meant to intimidate the Black Stars.
Egypt started well and went ahead in the 25th minute through Zaki. Mohamed Aboutrika curled a free-kick into the box from deep on the right and Zaki used his back to redirect the ball into the net off a Ghanaian defender.
The self-belief imparted to Egypt's players was obvious, but even with a 1-0 lead and more than 60 minutes to play, the Pharaohs still had four goals to make up.
Egypt nearly had a chance to double their lead in the 41st minute, but referee Noumandiez Doue waved away the hosts' penalty appeals after Mohamed Salah went to ground under light contact in the box. Then, after Egypt produced a flowing move in first-half stoppage time, Hazem Emam poked a tame shot at Ghana keeper Fatau Dauda, who saved easily.
In the 49th minute, Salah curled a shot just over the bar from the edge of the box. In the 57th minute, Aboutrika came even closer, hooking a shot over the bar with his back to goal after receiving Hosni Abd Rabou's cross in the middle of Ghana's box.
Egypt continued to search for goals and Salah came close again in the 75th minute, attempting to finish off a rebound with a flying volley in the Ghana box.
Finally, Egypt scored their second goal in the 83rd minute. Salah slipped a pass to Gedo on the right and Gedo shot through Dauda's legs to give Egypt a late 2-0 lead.
But it was little more than a consolation and substitute Boateng pulled one back for Ghana in the 89th minute, sweeping in Asamoah Gyan's inviting cross from the right.
Dream was probably over for Egypt after the playoff draw. Definitely after 1st leg. Still, Bob Bradley goes out a 2-1 winner over Ghana.— Avi Creditor (@AviCreditor) November 19, 2013
The war raged on. The buildings around him burned. Bradley stayed. Egypt won all but one game. It's something, even if it's not enough.— Anthony Lopopolo (@sportscaddy) November 19, 2013
Appiah's team didn't play poorly, but neither did they do anything to impress following last month's 6-1 demolition of Egypt on home soil.
Instead, Ghana entered a tough atmosphere—laser pointers stung the players' eyes throughout—and ground out a result.
Truth be told, however, Egypt could—perhaps should—have scored more goals. That said, Ghana are a strong side that could cause problems for some of the world's more-fancied teams next year in Brazil.
Egypt pursued an impossible task—overturning a 6-1 deficit—with the correct attitude. Bradley's team played positive, attacking football, and their endeavour produced several chances both before and after half-time.
The Pharaohs held plenty of possession and were full of attacking intent throughout. With better finishing, the match could have become much more uncomfortable for Ghana.
In the end, though, it was just too big a task for Egypt. But Bradley's team went down fighting, restoring some pride along the way.